American pastor back in Turkey court for spying and terror trial

IRBIL, Iraq: A joint task force of US coalition and Iraqi special forces has arrested 10 suspected members of a network that provided funding for Daesh in Baghdad and the northern city of Irbil, the coalition said on Thursday.

The task force conducted raids from Oct. 7-9 and arrested suspected members of the Rawi financial network, which operated as a “financial facilitation group” for the militants, the coalition said in a statement.

“The arrests deal a major blow to ISIS’ (Daesh) capacity to threaten and terrorize civilians,” said Maj. Gen. Patrick B. Roberson, commander of Special Operation Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve.

“This demonstrates that those who assist in, sponsor, or provide financial, material or technological support to ISIS will face severe consequences.”

Iraq declared victory over the militant group in December after retaking swathes of territory it held but its fighters have since then waged a campaign of kidnappings and killings.

Separately, an army officer was killed and three soldiers were captured in western Iraq after militants attacked their vehicle, security sources said on Thursday.

The attack took place late on Wednesday in the town of Akaz, 5 km from the Qaim district of Anbar province. The unit was delivering food to other troops, the sources told Reuters.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but Daesh militants are active in the area.

Usually militants kill soldiers and take officers captive whom they view as higher value targets, the sources said, but the reverse happened on Wednesday night.

At least eight people were killed and 12 wounded in a suicide car-bomb attack on a security checkpoint in the same area last August.

Security forces retook Qaim, which lies 300 km west of Baghdad in the Sunni province of Anbar, on the border with Syria, in November. It was one of the last remaining territories in Iraq held by Daesh.

The group’s fighters have since then waged a campaign of killings and abductions. 

In another development, Iraq’s government has named Oil Minister Jabar Al-Luaibi as head of a new National Oil Company which will serve as an umbrella organization for state oil firms, an Oil Ministry spokesman told Reuters on Thursday.

Parliament voted in March to establish the company, which is meant to manage Iraq’s upstream operations, freeing up the ministry to set plans and strategies for developing the sector.

The decision was voted on unanimously in Cabinet last week, spokesman Asim Jihad said. The positions of oil minister and National Oil Company chief are not related, he added.

“The appointment decision was made for many reasons, including the experience Luaibi has,” Jihad said. Luaibi will also remain as oil minister in Prime Minister Haider Abadi’s outgoing government, he said.

Iraqi President Barham Salih named former Oil Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi as prime minister-designate earlier this month and tasked him with forming a new government. It is unclear if Luaibi will remain after that.

“The issue of selection of a new minister is the responsibility of the prime minister-designate. Anything is possible, we will wait and see,” said Jihad.

Luaibi remains a minister until a new government is formed and approved by parliament, he said.

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